The emergence of whole-genome annotation approaches is paving the way for the comprehensive annotation of the human genome across diverse cell and tissue types exposed to various environmental conditions. This has already unmasked the positions of thousands of functional cis-regulatory elements integral to transcriptional regulation, such as enhancers, promoters, and anchors of chromatin interactions that populate the noncoding genome. Recent studies have shown that cis-regulatory elements are commonly the targets of genetic and epigenetic alterations associated with aberrant gene expression in cancer. Here, we review these findings to showcase the contribution of the noncoding genome and its alteration in the development and progression of cancer. We also highlight the opportunities to translate the biological characterization of genetic and epigenetic alterations in the noncoding cancer genome into novel approaches to treat or monitor disease.
Significance: The majority of genetic and epigenetic alterations accumulate in the noncoding genome throughout oncogenesis. Discriminating driver from passenger events is a challenge that holds great promise to improve our understanding of the etiology of different cancer types. Advancing our understanding of the noncoding cancer genome may thus identify new therapeutic opportunities and accelerate our capacity to find improved biomarkers to monitor various stages of cancer development. Cancer Discov; 6(11); 1–15. ©2016 AACR.
- Received July 13, 2016.
- Revision received August 11, 2016.
- Accepted August 17, 2016.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.